Libya burns dirty oil for electricity as Islamic State disrupts gas plans

By Richard Nield | Published on 03/01/2018 | 9:31 AM

Amid conflict since Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011, gas pipelines have been shelved, leaving two new power plants reliant on burning crude

Port city Tobruk is some 400km from the nearest gas pipeline (Pic: Flickr/DYKT Mohigan)

Libya is turning to crude oil to solve electricity shortages, as the threat from Islamic State holds back gas infrastructure development.

Two new plants at Ubari in the southwest and Tobruk in the northeast are primarily designed to run on gas. But in the absence of pipelines to deliver the fuel, both will instead burn oil, emitting roughly double the greenhouse gases.

In the instability since former leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, the imperative to address frequent power blackouts is taking priority over environmental protection.

“It’s more a strategy of necessity than a deliberate approach to burn oil for power,” Richard Mallinson, analyst at London-based Energy Aspects told Climate Home News. “In a more stable environment they’d aim to have everything connected up when it came on stream. But they have an urgent need for power.”

The 640MW power plant at Ubari is expected to be commissioned in the coming weeks. Gas fields in the southwest are connected by pipeline to an export terminal in Mellitah, but the pipeline stops about 300km short of Ubari.

The 650MW Tobruk plant has a similar problem. Libya’s main gas pipeline runs along the Mediterranean coast between the capital Tripoli and Libya’s second city, Benghazi, but it stops about 400km short of Tobruk.

Libya bucks the global trend away from oil-fired power generation, which in most parts of the world is used as a last resort. Even oil-rich nations see more value in exporting the product than squandering it in inefficient power plants.

“Oil is gradually being phased out,” said Mallinson. “Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq have all had a lot of oil-fired generation, but they are trying to displace it with gas so they can sell their oil.”

Stalled gas plan

Libya’s government didn’t plan things this way. In 2007, they drew up a gas strategy that included extending the domestic gas supply network.

But most of those infrastructure projects are on hold, developers deterred by the threat from Islamic State (IS) militants. Fuel supply to existing facilities is inconsistent.

Meanwhile consumer demand is rising. The state-run General Electricity Company of Libya (Gecol) imposes rolling scheduled blackouts in an attempt to prevent the network going down completely.

Often there are unscheduled blackouts too, due to parts of the country refusing to shut down when scheduled or to attacks on power infrastructure by disgruntled local groups or political factions.

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On 12 January 2017, the Zawiya power plant in the northwest was forced to switch to diesel generation when protesters shut down gas supplies to the facility.

The subsequent fall in output caused 12-hour power outages in Tripoli and a three-day blackout across the south of the country. Had gas supplies been cut for any longer, the results would have been a “total blackout,” said Gecol at the time.

Gecol’s efforts to encourage more moderate consumption and coordinated load shedding failed to prevent further unplanned outages throughout the year. There were blackouts across the country in late June and July as summer power demand peaked. Parts of the south were without electricity for up to a week at a time.

Power production is not the only aspect of environmental protection that is suffering from the vacuum of authority at the heart of Libyan politics. Environment policy on both a national and local level is essentially non-existent.

“There’s uncollected waste in Benghazi and Tripoli, the sewerage system has collapsed, and I suspect there’s no regulation of fishing,” said Geoff Porter, head of US-based North Africa Risk Consulting. “The environmental degradation we’re seeing in Libya is a direct consequence of the complete collapse of the state.”

Poor outlook

State authority in Libya is divided several times over. The parliament in Tobruk has for almost two years refused to endorse the cabinet nominated by the internationally recognised executive in Tripoli that was formed following the Libyan Peace Agreement in December 2015.

The previous internationally recognised government, formed in 2014 and based in the eastern town of Baida, continues to exert authority over certain parts of the country. Factions from its predecessor in Tripoli also reject the 2015 peace deal.

All this is made considerably more difficult by the fragmentation of military capacity between hundreds of militias. The Libyan National Army is national only in name and is not recognised by the Tripoli government, but its leader Khalifa Haftar is keen to fashion a key role for himself in any political settlement.

Haftar’s forces have enjoyed some success in forcing IS militants from the town of Derna in the northeast and more recently from Benghazi. Militias from Tripoli and Misrata, backed by US air power and French and British military expertise, have meanwhile forced IS from its base in the town of Sirte.

But IS cells continue to threaten the security of key infrastructure and the safety of workers, particularly those from overseas. This makes it extremely difficult to rehabilitate existing infrastructure, let alone build new facilities.

The Ubari power plant was due to come on stream in November. But project partners Enka Teknik and Siemens withdrew their staff from the plant in November after three Turkish workers and a South African, all Siemens employees, were kidnapped outside Ubari airport.

In September, UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salamé published an action plan to heal political divisions and restore functional government. It is a tall order.

Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/26/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at

‘Bad-ass business women’ bring solar empowerment to Nepal

By Lucy EJ Woods | Published on 15/06/2017 | 4:57 PM |

NGO that helps women overcome cultural taboos and start their own clean energy businesses to be awarded prize in London ceremony

“People talk here when a woman talks to men. They say things like how a woman should not leave the house,” says Runa Jha, a solar entrepreneur in Janakpur, eastern Nepal. “But I don’t care.”

A widow, Jha lives in one room with her three teenage children. In rural Nepal, widows are treated as social outcasts. They are seen as predatory, potential husband-stealers and their interactions with men are frowned upon.

“You should do what you want,” says Jha, who received training from Empower Generation – an NGO that on Thursday will be awarded a £20,000 Ashden award for promoting the role of women and girls in the clean energy sector.

Another Empower-trained solar entrepreneur, Lalita Choudhary, also faced cultural barriers. “Individuals are going to say all sorts of things” about business women in rural Nepal, she says. Choudhary lives not too far from Jha, in Lahan, Siraha, just 17km from the Indian border. Most people in the area work in agriculture, growing rice and corn or tending to goats and cows.

Runa Jha, in her solar shop in Janakpur, eastern Nepal (Photo: Lucy EJ Woods)

In many communities, women “hide their faces and do not talk to men” and “are not really allowed to get a job,” says Abhilahsa Poudel, Empower Generation’s communications coordinator.

But solar power’s effect on village life is inarguable. Its allows for cleaner home environments, with light into the evenings and the ability to charge a mobile phone.

The social benefits that flow from the women-run solar businesses, means that Jha and Choudhary have become admired for their work by both men and women in their communities. “Everyone wants to be like [Choudhary] and to work like her,” says Poudel.

Jha and Choudhary are two of the 23 women that NGO Empower Generation has trained to be renewable energy entrepreneurs, who in turn, employ and manage a further 170 sales agents. Some of the agents are men, but most are aspirational young women, creating a ripple effect of empowerment through sustainable, profitable employment.

“Before, women were not allowed outside the house, and were told not to study as they have to do the housework,” Jha says.

Empower Generation mentors and supports women registering their own businesses to sell solar lanterns, solar home systems, clean cook stoves and water filters. The trainee entrepreneurs are given lessons on climate change and the adverse effects of fossil fuels, becoming leaders in their community for promoting renewable energy and environmental awareness.

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As women do not traditionally work in energy, Empower Generation’s work aims to “really move the needle on how women are valued,” and change the rural Nepalese culture of women being considered to be the property of their husband’s families, says Empower Generation co-founder Anya Cherneff.

The “priority is to create bad-ass business women,” says Cherneff.

Since owning and running a solar business, Jha has taken on other leadership roles, including leading a community clean-up group. “I feel like I want to lead now; I like to lead,” says Jha.

Many of the women working with Empower Generation apply their skills and confidence to further business ventures and other arenas of public life. Choudhary is currently running as a candidate in local government elections, and Sita Adhikari, Empower Generation co-founder is now a United Nations adviser.

The Ashden awards ceremony on Thursday will host former US vice-president Al Gore as keynote speaker.

Adhikari said that receiving the award “encourages us to work even harder to cultivate more women entrepreneurs who are providing reliable, affordable clean tech solutions.”

Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/17/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views, contents, and materials of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability, accuracy, and consistency of the republished article. If you need additional information about the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at